M. Horne

Champlain College (UNITED STATES)
One of the challenges for general and liberal education today is meeting the goal to develop “global citizens.” While a complex and contingent term, I refer to the student who, first, participates in decisions concerning her life, and, then, being aware of the wider world can cross political, social, and cultural borders in her understanding of how the world works. While it’s easy for students to travel and see much of the world today, unless they are disciplined, taking time to reflect, think critically, and construct and create from their experiences, their education is not complete. Recognizing differences is not enough to develop a global perspective. We need to find ways to help them integrate their experiences with the way they think and relate to others.
As I join the discussion about creating global citizens, I draw on Reimers (2009) who suggests that “students need ‘global competency’—the knowledge and skills that help them cross disciplinary domains to comprehend global events and respond to them effectively.” He further explains this by explaining that “the first [dimension of global competency] is a positive approach toward cultural differences and a willingness to engage those differences. That requires empathy with people with other cultural identities, an interest and understanding of various civilizations and their histories, and the ability to see those differences as opportunities for constructive, respectful and peaceful transactions.”
As we work to facilitate our students becoming global citizens, the question then becomes how do we help them to reach beyond their own borders and, as Reimers suggests, actually engage with differences. With limits to time, budget, course design and delivery to name a few, what can we realistically do?
This presentation presents one possible answer by drawing on the experiences of six students who traveled for a week to Nicaragua as part of an embedded service learning component of a Human Rights course at a small American college. Drawing on qualitative research practices of group discussion (Maykut & Morehouse, 2001; Morgan, 1988), journal writing (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Maykut & Morehouse, 2001) and interim writing (Clandinin and Connelly, 2000), the students reflected on their experiences before departure, during the trip and on their return. I contend that by engaging in these reflective practices, students were able to create empathy and a willingness to engage with difference thus acting as more than travel voyeurs or drop-in “knights” to save the poor. Rather, with only a week to travel, they were able to process their learning and their understanding of how the world works, taking them one step closer to global citizenship.